D-Day veteran who starved to death at NHS hospital only suffered ‘a negative experience’: Extraordinary words of Tory MP
A Tory MP who dismissed the way a D-Day veteran starved to death in hospital as ‘a negative experience’ has been forced to apologise for his ‘stupid mistake’.
Albert Buck, 84, lost eight stone in just two months at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent after being admitted with a fractured hip. His family were angry with the way he had been treated, and so wrote to Darftord MP Gareth Johnson asking him to take up the case.
But the former solicitor did not read the email properly and replied: ‘I am sorry to hear your father had a negative experience. ‘If your father lives in my constituency and you wish me to raise this matter with the primary care trust please return the enclosed form to me.’
Albert’s son Michael was ‘staggered’ by the reply. He said: ‘Dad was among the troops who liberated Belsen but died looking like one of the inmates, thanks to Darent Valley Hospital.’
Michael’s brother Chris told the Sunday Mirror: ‘I have little confidence in the NHS. I am now even more concerned about the folk that represent us in the seat of government.’
Mr Johnson, who has now promised to set up a meeting between the family and the hospital, later met with the brothers and, according to Chris, ‘could not apologise enough’. He said: ‘Mr Johnson accepted the blame and said he’d made a stupid mistake.’
Darent Valley has one of the worst rates for patient deaths in the country and its A&E department is in the bottom 10, with low levels of weekend staffing. A Facebook group exists called ‘Darent Valley Hospital is the worst hospital ever’. It currently has 90 members.
Telephone blunders behind out-of-hours deaths
Out of hours GPs services are causing deaths because of critical errors during telephone consultations, major new research has found.
The study of errors made by out of hours services found that more than 60 per cent of deaths of patients seeking medical care are linked with telephone blunders.
The phone consultations are increasingly used instead of visits from family doctors because most family GPs have opted out of providing cover after office hours, with responsibility often handed to private companies.
They use phone lines often staffed by clerical staff and nurses, who attempt to decide which are serious enough to warrant being referred to a doctor.
Experts warned that the use of poorly trained staff to cut costs had left some playing “Russian roulette” with patients’ lives.
Previous research has found that in some parts of the country, GPs visit just one in 50 patients who falls ill out of hours. Even in the best areas, only one in four people will receive a visit.
The study by the Medical Protection Society examined 250 legal cases involving errors made by out-of-hours services.
One third ended with the patient’s death – and in almost 60 per cent of those cases, the error occurred during a telephone consultation, the research found.
The study found almost half of errors made out-of-hours involved the wrong diagnosis.
Other blunders involved communication and administration – such as the wrong contact details being taken for a patient who required a visit.
Dr Stephanie Bown, MPS director of policy warned that attempt to cut costs were putting lives at risk, with too much responsibility placed on those without the right skills.
She said: “The safest model is to have a highly trained doctor involved in calls early on, but as out-of-hours providers look to enhance efficiency and save costs we are seeing much more use of nurse practitioners.
“Sometimes their training is appropriate – but sometimes it is not. When the correct skills are not in place, diagnosis becomes a game of Russian roulette.”
The former GP said those handling out-of-hours calls were working in “an exquisitely pressured environment,” often relying on an anxious patient’s description of their symptoms, without access to their medical records.
Many symptoms could be wrongly dismissed as harmless, without expert probing, she said.
While most headaches are self-limiting, a severe sudden onset could denote a potentially lethal subarachnoid haemorrhage.
Breathlessness could mean a simple upper respiratory infection – or a life threatening pneumonia or pulmonary embolism.
While indigestion, burping and lightheadedness were often associated with over enthusiastic indulgence, they could also be the first signs of a heart attack, she warned.
Safe systems required the right level of expertise at each link in the chain to identify “red flag” symptoms and probe further, or pass to someone better qualified, she said.
“Doctors can never be infallible, but if you have the right person asking the right questions, you can make a sound judgment.”
Last year, a six-year-old boy died as a result of a burst appendix – a day after an out-of-hours “triage nurse” gave his father telephone advice to tuck the child up with a hot water bottle.
Lee Kerrigan took his son Ethan to Penrice Hospital in St Austell in the early hours of June 15, after the child had been vomiting for several days.
But the NHS hospital turned him away – telling Mr Kerrigan to instead telephone the out-of-hours service, run by Serco.
During the call, made from the hospital car park, he was told by a triage nurse that there was nothing to worry about, and to give his son ibuprofen and a hot water bottle, and see a GP the next day.
The next day, Ethan collapsed at the doctors’ surgery. He was taken to hospital, but died later that day from acute gangrenous appendicitis.
After an inquest in September, Serco said an investigation found the triage nurse failed to ask enough questions. The company said new guidance had been brought in relating to abdominal pain in children, and that the nurse had been put under close supervision.
During the inquest in September, his mother Theresa cried out at Serco managers, for failing her son.
Recording a verdict of death from natural causes, assistant coroner Barrie van den Berg said Ethan’s mother and father had been through “every parent’s worst nightmare”.
Last year, a report by the Primary Care Foundation found that the number of patients receiving home visits after seeking medical care at evenings and weekends varied from between 2 and 25 per cent.
The same study showed many areas failed to respond quickly to the most pressing calls.
Just two of 84 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) surveyed were able to get a GP to visit, or even telephone all cases designated as urgent within 20 minutes of the call.
The study also showed large variations in the amount spent on out-of-hours services between PCTs, which ranged from £16 and £3 per person.
An investigation last year disclosed that in the worst areas, there was just one GP to cover as many as 650,000 people.
Since then, research has shown most PCTs are planning to reduce spending on the service, on average by six per cent.
A survey of more than 500,000 people last week found that 42 per cent had no idea how to contact medical services at evenings or weekends. Of those who had tried to do so, one third said it had taken too long to get assistance.
Since a new contract for family doctors was introduced in 2003, their pay has risen by about 50 per cent, to an average of £106,000, while nine out of ten stopped providing care at evenings at weekends.
Concerns about the standards of replacement services have increased since pensioner David Gray died in 2008 from an overdose administered by Daniel Ubani, a doctor who had flown here from Germany, and was working his first shift.
Many PCTs hire locum GPs from other EU countries to provide out-of-hours cover, without checks on their competence or even their ability to speak English.
At the Conservative party conference in October, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, promised to change the system to ensure that in future they have adequate language skills.
The Government has also pledged to improve quality of out-of-hours care, by forcing new consortia of GPs to take responsibility for the quality of the care given at all times, whoever provides it.
Reserve soldier fired from job at British bank
A Territorial Army soldier who fought in Afghanistan was sacked from his job at Barclays Bank because managers saw his service as a ‘betrayal’. Lance Corporal Edward Leveratt spent six months as an infantry soldier in Helmand province, going out on regular patrol and coming under fire from the Taliban.
Yet at the end of his tour of duty he was told he could not return to his civilian job at Barclays headquarters, where he managed a team of security guards and worked as a personal bodyguard to Bob Diamond, the chief executive.
An employment tribunal found that at a key meeting in May 2008 when L/Cpl Leveratt’s future was discussed, Neil Woods, a security manager employed by Barclays, “explained very forcefully that Barclays had fully funded the Claimant’s close protection course on the understanding that the Claimant would not be leaving to serve overseas.
“When this apparently happened shortly after it was seen as a betrayal of the agreement. … Mr Woods was adamant in saying that the Claimant would not be allowed back.”
Employers are required in law to accept reservists back into their old positions. In January 2009, Barclays gave a new reason for its refusal, saying that L/Cpl Leveratt had been identified as a “disruptive influence”.
The tribunal heard that Mitie Security, the firm which was contracted to run Barclays’ security and which employed L/Cpl Leveratt, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the bank to accept his return.
Nevertheless, it found that L/Cpl Leveratt had been unfairly dismissed by Mitie in March 2009, and awarded him £8,737 in compensation. He had been offered a different position by Mitie, on similar terms and conditions, but turned it down.
L/Cpl Leveratt said he felt as though he had been “stabbed in the back”. He added: “I didn’t expect to spend six months in Afghanistan only to then spend two years fighting for my employment rights. “I really wondered what the value was in serving to then be treated like that.”
He said he also felt let down by the Ministry of Defence, after it failed to persuade his employers to take him back, then told him that he would have to fund his legal battle himself.
The tribunal judgment criticised the reasons given by Barclays for not allowing L/Cpl Leveratt back, describing them as “to say the least vague in the extreme”. It ruled that Mitie did not do “everything that [it] reasonably [could] to avoid or mitigate the injustice brought about by the stance” of Barclays.”
The MoD and Mitie were unable to comment on the tribunal verdict. A spokeswoman for Barclays said the bank “would not comment on a case in which we were not directly involved”.
L/Cpl lost a separate claim that he was a victim of discrimination, which could have attracted a higher payout, because the law on discrimination only protects specified groups – including ethnic minorities and homosexuals, but not members of the armed forces.
L/Cpl Leveratt joined the TA in 2000. He began working at Barclays in 2005 under a different contractor, OCS Security, and rose to the rank of control room manager, earning £35,000 a year.
In June 2007 he was mobilised and spent five months training in the UK, along with three of his colleagues at Barclays. The bank organised a reception for all four men, to “wish them well on their deployment”.
L/Cpl Leveratt left for Afghanistan in October 2007 and spent an “extremely challenging” six months with 52 Brigade in Helmand province as an infantry solider, mainly stationed at forward operating bases. He came under fire from the Taliban several times and served in an Incident Response Team, responsible for recovering casualties from the battlefield.
He then returned to the UK in May 2008 to find that another company, Mitie Security, had taken over the Barclays HQ security contract. It was then that Mr Wood told Mitie “very forcefully” that L/Cpl Leveratt would not be permitted to return to his old job, the tribunal heard. When officials at Mitie wrote to Barclays to ask why L/Cpl Leveratt could not return the bank stated, in January 2009, that the soldier had been identified as a “disruptive influence”.
L/Cpl Leveratt was then offered another position by Mitie, on similar terms and conditions, which he turned down. He was dismissed in March 2009. His tribunal victory arises from a judgment made in September but not reported until now.
He said the verdict came as a “relief” and added: “It vindicated my opinion when people around me told me I was wasting my time. It felt like I had made a stand.”
The tribunal judgment criticised the reasons given by Barclays for not allowing L/Cpl Leveratt back, describing them as “to say the least vague in the extreme”.
It ruled that Mitie did not do “everything that [it] reasonably [could] to avoid or mitigate the injustice brought about by the stance” of Barclays.
Mitie argued that even if it had tried harder to return L/Cpl Leveratt to his job at Barclays, the attempt would still have been unsuccessful. But the tribunal panel disagreed, ruling that: “We feel that if, in May 2008, Mitie had said to a company of the standing of Barclays that they were dealing with the return of a reservist who had statutory rights to ask for reinstatement, that was a matter which needed to be – and would have been – considered very seriously by Barclays.”
L/Cpl Leveratt said: “Barclays were given the opportunity to investigate and recognise that a member of their staff had taken a bad decision. They responded with a letter saying ‘Not our problem – it’s down to Mitie’.”
L/Cpl Leveratt, who now works as a sales manager for a defence technology company in the Middle East, added: “Employers need to be aware that when they let a reservist go he’s going to come back, and he has every right to come back – and they should not think that they can bully their way out of it.”
Stephen Simpson, an employment law expert at XpertHR, a human resources website, said the case highlighted how employers need to be aware of their legal obligations to reservists.
He said: “Companies need to be aware that members of the reserve forces who have been mobilised generally have the right to be reinstated in their former job within six months of demobilisation on terms and conditions no less favourable to them than if they’d not had the enforced absence.
“If it is not reasonably practicable to reinstate a reservist in his or her former job, he or she must be re-engaged in the most favourable occupation and on the most favourable terms and conditions that are reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. “The award of over £8,000 in this case shows how seriously employment tribunals are prepared to take these obligations.”
British Liberal leader lampoons PM’s support for marriage as a 1950s throwback
Nick Clegg last night opened up a damaging new rift with David Cameron by ridiculing the Prime Minister’s support for marriage as a throwback to the Fifties. In a direct challenge to Mr Cameron’s views, the Deputy Prime Minister describes tax breaks for married couples as outdated nonsense and takes a swipe at the image of the traditional nuclear family.
‘We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the Fifties model of suit-wearing, bread-winning dad and aproned, home-making mother, and try to preserve it in aspic,’ the Liberal Democrat leader will say in a speech tomorrow.
The comments amount to a direct assault on the beliefs of the Prime Minister and many leading Tories. Barely six months ago, Mr Cameron issued an impassioned statement of his belief in marriage by saying: ‘I am pro-commitment, I back marriage and I think it’s a wonderfully precious institution.’
Mr Clegg’s outspoken remarks – which will be seen as a desperate attempt to shore up the party’s crumbling grassroots support – cap the Coalition’s rockiest period since it was formed 18 months ago.
Relations between the Government allies have fallen to their lowest ebb after last week’s bitter public row over Europe when the fervently pro-European Mr Clegg disowned Mr Cameron’s decision to veto a new EU treaty. He said he was bitterly disappointed by it.
Yesterday, Mr Clegg kept up the attack by accusing Eurosceptics of stoking up ‘xenophobia and chauvinism’. In his comments on the family, to be made in a speech to Left-wing think-tank Demos, Mr Clegg will stress his implacable opposition to Mr Cameron’s plans to give tax breaks to married couples. ‘We can all agree that strong relationships between parents are important but not agree that the State should use the tax system to encourage a particular family form,’ Mr Clegg is expected to say.
Last night, Tory MPs condemned the Lib Dem leader for his attack on marriage. Priti Patel, MP for Witham, Essex, claimed that Mr Clegg’s ‘liberal ideal of partnerships’ had ‘led to the moral breakdown in society’.
Ms Patel, 39, who is married with a three-year-old son, added: ‘We should be supporting the traditional concept of marriage and family. I would urge the Prime Minister to call Mr Clegg’s bluff and press on with introducing tax help for married couples.’
Is the honeymoon over? Mr Clegg’s latest remarks cap a tough few weeks of public disputes within the Coalition
Mr Clegg – married with three children, but in charge of a party whose members traditionally take a more relaxed view of the institution – will compare the Lib Dem notion of an ‘open society’ with Mr Cameron’s much-trumpeted Big Society of greater community involvement and devolving power.
His provocative comments come as Lib Dem MPs are still recovering from Mr Clegg’s abrupt U-turn last weekend over Mr Cameron’s veto, which the Deputy PM initially supported before suddenly changing his mind. He warned Britain would look like a ‘pygmy’ if it left the EU.
Sources say the volte-face came about after party grandees, including Lord Ashdown and Baroness Williams, urged him to show some ‘steel’ in his dealings with the Prime Minister.
One senior Lib Dem MP said: ‘We were all on the same page, happy with Nick’s initially conciliatory response, but then there was this barrage of behind-the-scenes Europhilia from people such as Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown. They got to him. ‘Most MPs think it was entirely stupid to have one position and then stage a U-turn.’
Last night, Mr Clegg’s aides denied he had been persuaded by Lord Ashdown to harden his views on the EU negotiations, saying: ‘Nick made his own mind up.’
Aides to Mr Cameron declined to comment on the Deputy Prime Minister’s latest attack.
The death of History: Experts fears after shocking figures show subject is all but extinct in some areas of Britain
Experts have warned of the ‘death of History’ after shocking figures revealed the subject is becoming virtually extinct in some areas of the country.
MPs have been appalled to read new research stating that in one local authority – Knowsley, on Merseyside – just four pupils managed to pass the exam in the entire region.
The report concludes that a child growing up in the Home Counties is 46 times more likely to pass A-level History than a pupil living in deprived parts of the North.
The findings, contained in a report being published tomorrow, come amid growing alarm in Government over the lack of historical knowledge being demonstrated by school leavers.
Education Secretary Michael Gove was horrified by a recent survey that found that half of English 18 to 24-year-olds were unaware that Nelson led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, while a similar proportion did not know that the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall.
Mr Gove has ordered schools to widen their teaching away from narrow syllabuses which have been mockingly summarised as ‘Cowboys and Nazis’.
The report, produced by Tory MP Chris Skidmore for the Commons All-Party Group on History, shows how the subject is being concentrated in private schools and selective grammars – and increasingly neglected in comprehensives.
Last year, less than 30 per cent of 16-year-olds in comprehensive schools were entered for GCSE History, compared with 55 per cent of pupils in grammar schools and 48 per cent in private schools.
Alarmingly, there were 159 comprehensives where not a single pupil was entered for GCSE History; and in a majority of state secondaries, less than a quarter of pupils now take the exam.
Mr Skidmore says the fact that the subject is increasingly being confined to the most academic schools – which tend to be concentrated in the south of the UK – has produced a growing North-South gulf.
Teachers in comprehensives appear more likely to put their pupils forward for ‘soft’ subjects such as Media Studies, which are less valued by employers.
He will argue this week that pupils should no longer be able to drop History at 14, with the subject instead being made compulsory until the age of 16.
In Knowsley, one of the most deprived areas in the country, out of nearly 2,000 18-year-olds who had been eligible to take A-levels, just 11 pupils took the History exam and only four passed. In the whole of Leicester, out of 1,638 A-level candidates, just 68 passed History.
This contrasts with affluent southern areas such as Cambridgeshire, where 665 pupils (out of 6,038 candidates of A-level age) took the exam and 557 passed.
Even if Knowsley were as populous as Cambridgeshire, according to the analysis, only 33 pupils would have taken the exam and just 12 obtained passes – making it 46 times less likely that they would leave school with the qualification.
Mr Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, said: ‘There are now areas of the country where History has become a dead subject, forgotten by schools and pupils once they are able to drop it at 14.
‘The future study of the past is being eradicated in entire regions. A subject that should unite us as one nation has now become the subject of two nations. In entire communities and schools, often in some of the most deprived areas of the country, the study of history has been shunned; elsewhere, it has become the preserve of more affluent areas and schools.
‘This cannot be healthy for the future of the nation. This needs to end. There has never been a stronger case for making the subject compulsory to 16.’
Last night, Mr Gove said reforms he had introduced, including the introduction of an English Baccalaureate, had already started to reverse the decline in the number of history students.
‘Every child deserves a chance to study history,’ Mr Gove said. ‘It helps us appreciate the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought to make this country a home of liberty and it enables all students to analyse evidence so they can sort out good arguments from bad. ‘Under the last Government, history was neglected and the poorest students in the most deprived areas suffered most.’
Don’t give ground to Labour’s free school critics or they will go ‘in for the kill’, says Lord Adonis
A former Labour Education Minister warned against giving ground to Labour critics of the Coalition’s ‘free schools’ because they would seize on any concession and ‘move in for the kill’, writes Simon Walters.
Lord Adonis said opponents of the schools, such as the journalist Fiona Millar, partner of Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, ‘would stick pins in their eyes’ sooner than agree with any aspect of the flagship policy, which switches power from town halls to parents.
The comments by Lord Adonis – who helped Tony Blair launch academy schools, which paved the way for free schools – are revealed in a new book by writer and free schools advocate Toby Young.
During a cab journey after both appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, Mr Young, founder of the West London Free School, asked Lord Adonis if, rather than dealing with his opponents ‘aggressively’, he should enter talks with people such as Ms Millar who, like her partner, is a strong supporter of comprehensives.
Young says Lord Adonis gave him ‘a look of withering contempt’, and said: ‘They’re not interested in constructive dialogue.
‘Don’t you get it? If you extend any sort of olive branch they’ll see it as a sign of weakness and move in for the kill. I dealt with the same people – the Socialist Workers Party, the Anti Academies Alliance, the NUT – for most of my ministerial career and they would rather stick pins in their eyes than admit they have common ground with someone like you. ‘Their attitude to free schools is the same as to academies: they won’t rest until every last one has been razed to the ground.’
Mr Young says Lord Adonis persuaded him to ‘stick to my guns – and I was right’.
Daily dose of Vitamin B ‘can fight memory loss and help protect against Alzheimer’s’ (?)
This appears to be an unpublished study carried out by food freaks. It is not even mentioned on the HSIS site. I wouldn’t like to vouch for its replicability by more disinterested researchers
A daily dose of vitamin B can dramatically combat memory loss in old age and even protect against Alzheimer’s, a study has found. People taking the pill had lower levels of a brain protein known to lead to a rise in the risk of dementia. Researchers found it also slowed mental decline in older people who have slight problems with their memory.
More than 800,000 people in Britain suffer from dementia and the number is forecast to double within a generation, but previous drug trials have been unsuccessful. Around a sixth of people over 70 are thought to suffer from mild cognitive impairment and about half develop dementia, usually within five years of diagnosis.
The research suggested dementia could be treated with a food supplement rather than by taking complicated medicines.
More than 250 people took part in the study, at Oxford University, including people with mild cognitive impairment who were aged 70 years or older. They were given vitamin B – found naturally in food such as beans, meat, wholegrains and bananas – or a placebo over a two-year period. Taking the food supplement appeared to help maintain mental processes, such as planning, organising and recalling information.
An earlier study showed B vitamins slowed the rate of brain shrinkage compared with a group receiving a placebo.
Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Health Supplements Information Service told the Daily Express: ‘The findings from these two reports should be of interest to clinicians.’